endorse– hold onto your hats–Rudy Giuliani. Don Wildmon came out for Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee was developing momentum in the rank-and-file. He finished first in the
straw vote of the first “values voter debate” and come a very close second at the next
conference. An AP-Yahoo News Survey in December 2007 found that 4 in 10 evangelicals
had changed their preference for president, and most of them had switched to Huckabee. He
was developing that all-important “mo-mentum.”
Then Came the Primaries
Giuliani, still leading in the polls but losing ground as evangelical leaders made his
pro-choice stance better known to their followers, blazed a trail that no future presidential
candidate will likely ever follow. He decided to skip the “insignificant” early primaries and
concentrate on Florida’s January 29th contest instead. And that ended his chances.
Thanks to a genuine, underfinanced grass-roots movement led by local pastors, Mike
Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses in January, 2008. He did not do nearly as well in New
Hampshire a few days later, but New Hampshire has relatively few fundamentalist voters.
This was the point at which the national evangelical leaders could have thrown their
support to the candidate who clearly had the greatest appeal to their followers. Trouble was,
many of the leaders were already committed to someone else. Huckabee’s next big chance
came in the South Carolina primary on January 19, where he only got 43% of the
evangelical vote, and lost to McCain. The next day Rush Limbaugh said he opposed the
nomination of both McCain and Huckabee. Huckabee stumbled further in Florida, where he
came in fourth. He was essentially finished when Dobson finally endorsed him in February.